seeding bare clay "soil"

cedrbpMay 27, 2014

we have been renovating a house we bought in november - just north of asheville, nc. we had to get the yard re-graded two days ago to direct rainwater away from the house. there are tenants moving into the house in a little over 2 weeks and i am in a panic. the bare clay is too hard to till, but is still a slippery muddy mess. it will be a nightmare for the tenants if i can't get something to grow. i loosened up "soil" as best i could - maybe 1/4 to 1/2 inch and then i broadcast lime pellets ( i know should have done that months prior, but i am dealing with what i've been handed). i then spread fescue seed, watered it in and then threw hay over it all. i did all this yesterday, didn't have to water today, it rained. if i water 2 times a day for about 15 min each time - is there a chance that something green will come up? most of my acreage is tall fescue grass that is left alone, it is seeding now. will that spread to my yard? i'd love it if that happened. the part of the yard that was scraped bare is up against the tall grass. before the grading this was a beautiful yard.

do i have any chance at all to have something growing to get the mud under control?

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While I understand your problem from a business perspective,I'm personally turned-off by your approach of seeking a quick, unsustainable fix just to pacify your renters.

Sowing fescue seed in this kind of heat, especially on top of clay soil that can't even be tilled, is not going to work. Even if the seeds germinated, they wouldn't stand a chance of surviving more than a couple of weeks.

That you're knowingly trying to deceive your renters into believing they have a lawn just doesn't sit well with me.

Perhaps others here feel differently.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2014 at 10:24PM
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i am not knowingly trying to deceive my tenants. they know all about it and have been told of the progress (lack thereof). they are coming over tomorrow again for a walk through. they actually love the house. i am very conscientious and was trying to get things as nice as possible for them. they've already gotten a cut in the rent and they don't move in until june 15. this was my first post ever on garden web and didn't expect such harsh judgement. i am truly sorry f i did something wrong - but this isn't a good experience with this site right off the bat.

thanks for letting me know that planting fescue at this time is not a good idea - merchants told me otherwise. i really feel naive right now. i guess i am not smart enough to participate in this forum. i that i thought i could get some help - i've seen posts from others that indicate they are planting at this time - i am in the mountains. we have barely seen 80 degrees at this time. i have had good success planting bahia in florida in mid summer at 95 ð during the day and 75ð at night

thanks anyway

    Bookmark   May 28, 2014 at 9:47AM
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forsheems(Lexington, NC)

Bahia is a warm season grass similar to bermuda. Both are seeded late spring/early summer as they require warmer temps to germinate and grow.

Fescue and other cool season grasses are best seeded in the fall and more specifically for your area mid to late August. This gives the new grass plenty of time to build a root system that can withsatand the summer heat. Right now you need to lightly water 3 to 4 times per day to keep the seed moist for it to germinate. If you do this you should start seeing seedlings within 2 weeks.

Now for the problem, the grass will germinate and most likely become thick and green but once the heat of summer really kicks in most of it is not going to survive. At that point the weeds will begin to take over. Right now all you can really do is hope for the best and plan on reseeding this fall.

In the end you can expect a thin, patchy lawn with weeds at best. Hopefully it will be enough to hold the soil in place through the summer until you can fix it right this fall. I'm not trying to hurt your feelings in any way. Trust me, I've been down the road you're on too many times before and unfortunately learned the hard way too.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2014 at 10:19AM
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Unfortunately, the recommendations for planting and caring for warm season and cool season grasses are not necessarily compatible. What is good for the goose is not good for the gander.
A major issue with planting a cool season grass like fescue this time of year is its survival though summer. It just doesn't have time to establish enough of a root system to survive the heat and droughts (and with young grass a lack of water for 2 days can be a drought). It can be nursed through summer under a careful eye with regular watering. So yes, it can be planted and will grow this time of year, it's just a real struggle with a high chance of unsatisfactory results.
Are you located close enough to the property to check on a daily basis and spend the time watering if needed? Are your tenants willing to do this? Who pays for the water? things to consider.
Another option is sod. Not that it doesn't need water and care, but it will establish faster and may become more resilient by the time the dog days get here with a higher success rate.
Sorry I can't be more encouraging.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2014 at 10:37AM
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I don't know if you will come back to read this, but follow the advice of keeping the seed moist (not soaked) by watering 3-4 times a day if necessary. If you didn't apply a starter fertilizer when you seeded, once you see some green stubble emerging, apply a starter fertilizer. It's going to be hard to use a walk behind spreader with the straw so use a handheld spreader.
If you don't know what kind of fescue is on the rest of your land, contact a local extension office and take in a small square of sod for them to I.D.
I hope you come back and give us an update.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2014 at 3:25PM
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To the OP:

I apologize if I misrepresented the board. This is actually a wonderful, helpful group of people. Had you provided the details contained in your followup post, I wouldn't have jumped to such a negative judgment.

I hope everything works out with the house.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2014 at 6:43PM
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thank you all for the feedback. i am crossing my fingers that all hope is not lost - as i mentioned. getting something to grow is better than nothing. if i can at least get something established to prevent erosion until we come back in september and do things right, mission accomplished. my goal is not a lawn that is the envy of the neighborhood, weeds here and there are okay. our home here is surrounded by hay farms and forest in a rural area. our home in florida is located on acreage in a forested "hammock" - grass grows well, but so does everything else.

its frustrating when the only seed in the stores right now in this area are varieties of fescue and bluegrass. while i've found mom and pop and farm type stores to be more helpful than the big box stores, all seem to think its normal to plant fescue this time of year - so i live and learn. i have noticed that bermuda grass is a warm season grass - but i don't see it in stores. ironically, many homeowners associations in florida prohibit bermuda and bahia grasses, only allowing st augustine. must be the sod lobby.

the tenants are coming over this morning and i plan to discuss the watering with them. we won't be nearby once they move in as we will be heading back to florida. water is via a well and so watering a several times throughout the day is preferable. while cost isn't an issue - wells in these parts can be drained faster than they can recharge, so conservation is important.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2014 at 8:07AM
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its too early to report progress - obviously, other than the tenants saw the yard and shrugged that its no big deal and handed over the deposit check. regardless of the yard there's a beautiful view of the mountains and a field full of fireflies every night. they said they are happy to water it several times a day. i sure hope they do - it'll be another two weeks before they move in - so i know it'll be taken care of while i am still here.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2014 at 4:14PM
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OP, you're fine seeding this time of year where you're located, your summers are very mild so it's conducive for seeding in the Spring.

Mix some Bluegrass and a bit of Ryegrass and you'll be go to go!

I did a bunch of Spring seeding this year with good succsess so far, today I did another one. Mind you, these are in medium to heavy shade areas.

Also, you don't have to wait until mid August to seed should you decide to wait until Fall, early August works just as well. I've seeded as early as August 12 in Raleigh, NC with great results.

Keep the seed bed moist by misting the area on a daily basis, don't let it get dry for more than a few hours.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2014 at 10:58PM
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auteck - thanks for the encouragement! i know diligence is key. i am keeping my expectations low while working for the best.

i didn't think rye would work this time of year, but i know its great for quick results and for shading the slower seed. in florida, folks with the funkier sandy yards like to plant a bunch of rye around thanksgiving so they can have a lush brilliant green lawn during the holidays - if you're lucky it will last through february.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2014 at 4:28PM
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its been a week and am already seeing shoots, some almost an inch. i suspect that its the rye in the seed mix - looks like it. that is encouraging to me that something might grow. also we've had no rain all week on my ridge. i finally found it why the indians called this area "dry ridge" it rains all around us but breaks up as it comes across. its been cool, lows in the 50's highs at most, 80ð. the lack of rain means i've been able to give it "moist" watering without overdoing it - all by hand.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2014 at 9:58AM
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